What I Learned in the Gulag

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The setting? A Siberian labor camp during the darkest years of Stalin's long reign. The writer? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a brave voice of dissent whose insights on suffering and on the nature of enslavement and freedom are more vital than ever in today's world.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The setting? A Siberian labor camp during the darkest years of Stalin's long reign. The writer? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a brave voice of dissent whose insights on suffering and on the nature of enslavement and freedom are more vital than ever in today's world.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Following an operation, I am lying in the surgical ward of a camp hospital. I cannot move. I am hot and feverish, but nonetheless my thoughts do not dissolve into delerium, and I am grateful to Dr. Boris Nikolayevich Kornfeld, who is sitting beside my cot and talking to me all evening. The light has been turned out, so it will not hurt my eyes. There is no one else in the ward.

Fervently he tells me the long story of his conversion from Judaism to Christianity. I am astonished at the conviction of the new convert, at the ardor of his words.

It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good.We know each other very slightly, and he was not the one responsible for my treatment, but there was simply no one here with whom he could share his feelings. He was a gentle and well-mannered person. I could see nothing bad in him, nor did I know anything bad about him. However, I was on guard because Kornfeld had now been living for two months inside the hospital barracks, without going outside. He had shut himself up in here, at his place of work, and avoided moving around camp at all.

This meant that he was afraid of having his throat cut. In our camp it had recently become fashionable to cut the throats of stool pigeons. This has an effect. But who could guarantee that only stoolies were getting their throats cut? One prisoner had had his throat cut in a clear case of settling a sordid grudge. Therefore the self-imprisonment of Kornfeld in the hospital did not necessarily prove that he was a stool pigeon.

The only solution to this would be that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul.It is already late. The whole hospital is asleep. Kornfeld is finishing his story:

"And on the whole, do you know, I have become convinced that there is no punishment that comes to us in this life on earth which is undeserved. Superficially it can have nothing to do with what we are guilty of in actual fact, but if you go over your life with a fine-tooth comb and ponder it deeply, you will always be able to hunt down that transgression of yours for which you have now received this blow."

I cannot see his face. Through the window come only the scattered reflections of the lights of the perimeter outside. The door from the corridor gleams in a yellow electrical glow. But there is such mystical knowledge in his voice that I shudder.

Those were the last words of Boris Kornfeld. Noiselessly he went into one of the nearby wards and there lay down to sleep. Everyone slept. There was no one with whom he could speak. I went off to sleep myself.

I was wakened in the morning by running about and tramping in the corridor; the orderlies were carrying Kornfeld's body to the operating room. He had been dealt eight blows on the skull with a plasterer's mallet while he slept. He died on the operating table, without regaining consciousness.

And so it happened that Kornfeld's prophetic words were his last words on earth, and those words lay upon me as an inheritance. You cannot brush off that kind of inheritance by shrugging your shoulders.

But by that time I myself had matured to similar thoughts. I would have been inclined to endow his words with the significance of a universal law of life. However, one can get all tangled up that way. One would have to admit that, on that basis, those who had received even crueler punishments than imprisonment,those who were shot or burned at the stake, were some sort of super-evildoers. And yet it is the the innocent who are punished most zealously. And what would one then have to say about our torturers? Why does fate not punish them? Why do they prosper?

The only solution to this would be that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul. From that point of view our torturers have been punished most horribly of all: they are turning into swine; they are departing downward from humanity. From that point of view punishment is inflicted on those whose development . . . holds out hope.

In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic argumentsBut there was something in Kornfeld's last words that touched a sensitive chord, and that I completely accept for myself. And many will accept the same for themselves.

In the seventh year of my imprisonment I had gone over and re-examined my life and had come to understand why everything had happened to me: both prison and my malignant tumor. And I would not have murmured even if all that punishment had been considered inadequate.

I lay there a long time in that recovery room from which Kornfeld had gone forth to his death, and all alone during sleepless nights I pondered with astonishment my own life and the turns it had taken. Looking back, I saw that for my whole conscious life I had not understood either myself or my strivings. What had seemed for so long to be beneficial now turned out in actuality to be fatal, and I had been striving to go in the opposite direction to that which was truly necessary for me. But just as the waves of the sea knock the inexperienced swimmer off his feet and keep tossing him back onto the shore, so also was I painfully tossed back on dry land by the blows of misfortune. And it was only because of this that I was able to travel the path which I had always really wanted to travel.

Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: they struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.

Found at Bruderhof Communities

Aiken Peace!

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Do you live in the Aiken area? Interested in joining our peace movement? Contact David here (803)215-3263
Join us for our monthly Women in Black Silent Peace vigils, the last Wednesday of each month, 5-6pm on the steps of the Aiken County Judicial Center.

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Do you live in the Aiken area? Interested in joining our peace movement? Contact David here (803)215-3263
Join us for our monthly Women in Black Silent Peace vigils, the last Wednesday of each month, 5-6pm on the steps of the Aiken County Judicial Center.

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NO to First-Strike Preemptive War

A piece by Wade Fulmer

A piece by Wade Fulmer {IMAGE1}NO to First-Strike Preemptive War

…those that work deceptions on their own nation of
citizens and on nations of culture,…
that exempt their own, but take others\’ sons, daughters,
fathers, and mothers from family into harm,…
that rush THEM to unnecessary, preemptive war and endless
occupation,…
that SEND THEM to oil-fired violence and dyings, to kill or
convert God\’s other children to hypocrisy,…
that labor the lives of others\’ loved ones to maiming,
death, and families loss,………
and, if our own people are so expendable for exploited
fears, mythical war, opportunism, distraction, and
profiteering, then also immorally expendable are the
sovereign peoples of culture to the warrings of chicken
hawk politicians. Who are those stay at home AWOL
appointees that SEND THEM, but not themselves, to
unnecessary preemptive war and violence by First-Strike,
Fear-Kill, Free-Fire policies?
All the precedent\’s amens care not to work a plan for
peace, but instead to convert peoples, by fears of
speculation, manipulation, and deception, to marketed wars
of no end. The administration of Iraq War planners abused
preemptive powers and sovereign life freedoms. Such abuses
were motivated by ambush bully politics, paranoia, and
politico-corporate greed and campaign contributions. The
implementation of First-Strike strategy of tragedy
manifested those motivations in plans of bombings; of
prisons of interrogational torture, humiliation, and exile;
of misusing and overextending reservists and souldiers, as
if untrained mercenaries, to patrol, police, and kill
children and families; and of massive destructions for
no-bid reconstruction contracts given to
conflict-of-interest administration political campaign
contributors.
Who are those that SEND THEM to WAR? They are
unilateralist, egotistical, selfreichist arrogants and
profiteers of manipulation, deception, and privilege. They
are those who change their minds and their memories, as to
why they send others to war, each time their prior excuse
is proved to be their contrived deception and myth; …no
weapons of mass destruction, no Saddam ties to 9-11, no
9-11 terrorists ties to Saddam, the liberation of Iraqis,
the democratization of Iraq, the Iraqinization (a.k.a.
Vietnamization) of Iraqi security police (while the
occupation of American Soldiers will be required \”for
years\” and forever …\”years\”…sound familiar?), the
unspoken token of crusadism (christian jihad) for the
neo-con \”christian\” hawks, etc. They are those who
proclaim compassion and then recklessly foster civil wars,
sell weapons to nations who turn those weapons on their
citizens and on our souldiers, and divide our own nation by
manipulation into unnecessary, unjustified war and
premeditated murder.
Who are those that SEND THEM to WAR? They are those
who avoided honorable military service (or avoided
attendance to duty), and though they send others, they lend
not even their ears to the experience of military Defense
leaders, nor to former Defense leaders (now of State) who
know some truth of the importance of diplomacy, real
coalition, and real and imminent threat. They are
malicious mockers who smear and slander veterans who
served, sacrificed, and suffered, including Veteran
Cleland, Veteran McCain, Veteran Kerry, and Millions of
other Veterans who were injured, maimed, or killed for the
Truth and Justice of a Constitutional, respectful and
respected America. Those that SEND THEM to war crucify
these Veterans who served honorably while in the military
and who serve just as honorably and courageously when they
speak Truth after war,… as opposed to submitting to the
ambitious, dictatorial partisan ambushers of democracy and
accountability.
The promoters of unnecessary war are those who exploit,
maliciously extend, and perpetuate the motivation and
emotion of citizen fears, which provide the politically
ambitious chicken hawk with fodder, campaign monies, and
corporate vestments. They are those who Avoid the Issues
of healthcare, jobs for citizens (rather than to corporate
foreign outsourcing), education, and retirement plan
solvency,… who excuse the abuses and greed of
corporations in exchange for campaign contributions, who
have assured and insured their own future of excesses and
profitability with legislation and conflict-of-interest
politic. They are those who over-pay over-budget military
industrial complex campaign contributors while cutting
Veterans healthcare services by millions.
Who are those that SEND THEM to WAR? In the partisan
pit of arrogance, ignorance, and greed, are pharisean,
sociopathic bullies. They hide from Truth in their
corporate money bagged at-home bunkers, they turn away from
the taps of souls and families in body bags, and…they
hide the coffins, too. They smirk and sneer at humankind
who stand for peace and against unnecessary preemptive war.
They work their schemes to ignore international law, to
subvert constitutional freedoms, and to harness the
mythical fears of people for war. In fact, they are
destructors of democracy, deniers of the humanity of peace,
and abusers of our souldiers whom they use as mercenaries.
Their precedent of preemptive war taunts that those for war
are with him,…and that those against war are against him.
He contrives and taunts adversaries to \”bring it on\” to
THEM, to harm THEM, whom he has sent to his games of war
and death.
Truth tells us that \”we wrestle…against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against
spiritual wickedness in high places\” (Ephesians 6:12).
The God above all peoples, religions, and evil appointments
gives to us all the choice of righteous or unrighteous
works. For those works there is freedom, responsibility,
and consequence. The God of Truth is called the \”Prince of
Peace\”. Stop the violence, maiming, and deadly amens.
Unnecessary preemptive war, lies, and occupations must end.
Truth must restore Peace again. SEND THEM to War No More.
God\’s souldiers, children and family to Peace duty send.
Peace begins Now, Again. Labor not for war…Labor in Love
for Peace and Life. Labor to BRING T H E M HOME NOW !!!
NO to First-Strike Preemptive War. Blessed are the
Peacemakers.

Note: Wade H. Fulmer is a Vietnam War Veteran who served in
the US Army.

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy

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Peter Sederberg used this song in his talk at the Memorial March in Columbia, May 26, 2004, as a metaphor for our situation in Iraq.

Knee deep in the Big Muddy
And the fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep, neck deep
We’ll be drowning before too long
We’re neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling to push on

willie.jpg

Peter Sederberg used this song in his talk at the Memorial March in Columbia, May 26, 2004, as a metaphor for our situation in Iraq.

Knee deep in the Big Muddy
And the fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep, neck deep
We’ll be drowning before too long
We’re neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling to push on

willie.jpg

{IMAGE1} It was back in 1942, I was part of a good platoon
We were on manoeuvres in Louisiana one night by the light of the moon
The Captain said, We got to ford the river, that’s where it all began
We were knee deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on

The Sergeant said, Sir, are you sure this is the way back to base
Sergeant, I once crossed this river not a mile above this place
It’ll be a little soggy but we’ll keep on slogging, we’ll soon be on dry ground
We were waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on

Captain, sir, with all this gear no man will be able to swim
Sergeant, don’t be a nervous nellie, the Captain said to him
All we need is a little determination, follow me – I’ll lead on
We were neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on

All of a sudden the moon clouded over, all we heard was a gurgling cry
And a second later the Captain’s helmet was all that floated by
The Sergeant said, Turn round, men, I’m in charge from now
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the Captain dead and gone

We stripped and dived and found his body stuck in the old quicksand
I guess he didn’t know the water was deeper than the place where he’d once been
For another stream had joined the Muddy a half mile from where we’d gone
We were lucky to get out of the Big Muddy
When the damn fool kept yelling to push on

I don’t want to draw conclusions, I’ll leave that to yourself
Maybe you’re still walking, maybe you’re still talking
But every time I hear the news that old feeling comes back on
We’re neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling to push on

Knee deep in the Big Muddy
And the fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep, neck deep
We’ll be drowning before too long
We’re neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling to push on

Make the Pie Higher!

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A poem composed of actual quotes from George W. Bush.

MAKE THE PIE HIGHER
by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It’s a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

bush2.jpg

A poem composed of actual quotes from George W. Bush.

MAKE THE PIE HIGHER
by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It’s a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

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Dick Cheney Smirked at Me

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Dick Cheney Smirked at Me

2003-09-07

Dick Cheney smirked at me,
From inside the safe confines of his motorcade.
And I, on the grass, at the side of the road,
Felt that smirk so fair with a devine ectasy the likes of which I have never known before.
Dick Cheney smirked at me.
No, he didn’t stop the motorcade to talk.
How could he? It wouldn’t be proper. He couldn’t let on.
But I know he loves me. I know it. He loves me.
The Secret Service has my name. My address. My telephone number. My fingerprints. My email. They filmed homes movies where I play a supporting role. It’s all in my file.
He’ll ask for it all. He’ll watch the movies. Then he’ll call.
He will. Trust me he will. He loves me.
Even through the tint of the window, the glare of his glasses, I could see it in his eyes. A smirk that melted my soul.
We’ll have a romantic honeymoon.
Not to Baghdad of course. It’s been spoiled.
Perhaps we’ll honeymoon in Damascus, enjoy the healing powers of the Blue Mosque.
Maybe to Tehran. It has a peaceful, soothing breeze.
If all goes right, we might even go to Pyongyang. I heard that it’s nice this time of year. It’s best not to wait until the winter, when the Yalu River freezes.
Dick Cheney smirked at me.
I know that he went on his way, without stopping.
To smirk at the beautiful people.
Mark, Andre, Grisham, Lindsay, Joe, Gayle; they’ve all been graced by his smirk.
And although they each paid 2,000 dollars for the privilege,
I am sure, sure, sure, positive beyond doubt,
That the smirks they bought at that fancy lunch,
Could never compare to the tender, tender smirk that I received,
From my loving vice-president.
On the grass at the side of the road.

cheney.jpg

Dick Cheney Smirked at Me

2003-09-07

Dick Cheney smirked at me,
From inside the safe confines of his motorcade.
And I, on the grass, at the side of the road,
Felt that smirk so fair with a devine ectasy the likes of which I have never known before.
Dick Cheney smirked at me.
No, he didn’t stop the motorcade to talk.
How could he? It wouldn’t be proper. He couldn’t let on.
But I know he loves me. I know it. He loves me.
The Secret Service has my name. My address. My telephone number. My fingerprints. My email. They filmed homes movies where I play a supporting role. It’s all in my file.
He’ll ask for it all. He’ll watch the movies. Then he’ll call.
He will. Trust me he will. He loves me.
Even through the tint of the window, the glare of his glasses, I could see it in his eyes. A smirk that melted my soul.
We’ll have a romantic honeymoon.
Not to Baghdad of course. It’s been spoiled.
Perhaps we’ll honeymoon in Damascus, enjoy the healing powers of the Blue Mosque.
Maybe to Tehran. It has a peaceful, soothing breeze.
If all goes right, we might even go to Pyongyang. I heard that it’s nice this time of year. It’s best not to wait until the winter, when the Yalu River freezes.
Dick Cheney smirked at me.
I know that he went on his way, without stopping.
To smirk at the beautiful people.
Mark, Andre, Grisham, Lindsay, Joe, Gayle; they’ve all been graced by his smirk.
And although they each paid 2,000 dollars for the privilege,
I am sure, sure, sure, positive beyond doubt,
That the smirks they bought at that fancy lunch,
Could never compare to the tender, tender smirk that I received,
From my loving vice-president.
On the grass at the side of the road.

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